The Hesder Yeshiva Ma’alot Yaakov was named in memory of Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Herzog z”l. It was founded in 1975 in the northern town of Ma’alot in order to ensure its security, raise Jewish educational standards, and provide social and cultural activities. Under the leadership of Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman, one of the leading proponents of Torat Eretz Yisrael today, the Yeshiva has over 450 students, including 100 serving in the IDF.
A Hesder Yeshiva is not an “ivory tour” for academic study alone. The unique spirit of Yeshivat Hesder Maalot springs from its combination of army service and Torah learning with active involvement in the community. Our students volunteer as teachers in the local schools, and as tutors and “big brothers” for youngsters with learning difficulties. They run a program of advanced Torah studies for local gifted children, and they visit local families before every festival to help with preparations and to teach the children about festival customs.
Helping Israel’s New Immigrants
Over the years, the Yeshiva has been actively involved in one of Israeli society’s biggest challenges – the integration and absorption of large numbers of Jews from the Former Soviet Union. Our students have given lessons in Judaism in the Ulpanim (Hebrew classes) in Nahariya and Ma’alot. They have organized Shabbat programs in local absorption centers teach new immigrants about Shabbat, and classes at the Yeshiva in Hebrew and Russian on Jewish topics.
Today we are directly engaged with a group of Bnei Menashe immigrants from India, helping them to integrate successfully into Israeli society and learn skills that they can use to support their families.
The Ingathering of the Exiles: Helping the Bnei Menashe
In 1948, a group of Indian families and their leaders were excited to hear about the establishment of a Jewish state and set out to return to their people. They were the Bnei Menashe of Manipur in India, who had held onto their Jewish identity for 2700 years as descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe. With help from the Shavei Israel organization, these families started to make Aliyah to Israel in 2013, leaving their village with very few possessions. They were recognized as Jewish by Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar but required to formally convert on arrival in Israel, because of uncertainties regarding intermarriage.
The Bnei Menashe Program at Yeshivat Hesder Ma’alot
Rabbi Nir Herman was asked by the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman, to head the special program at the Yeshiva for the Bnei Menashe community when the second group of 36 families arrived in 2012. Based on the difficulties faced by the first group in Ma’alot, they worked on a program that would help the children and the adults to learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society.
We found mentors to help the children with their homework and organized shiurim for the men and women about Jewish topics. We created a Beit Midrash program for the teenage boys and men, and provided supplementary Ivrit classes to increase their literacy and assist their integration. Today we also have boys from the Bnei Menashe communities around Israel enrolled in the Yeshiva’s Hesder program of learning and army service.
The Yeshiva launched an appeal among its graduates and supporters to raise funds for the new olim to pay for housing and furniture, and to provide a monthly stipend to support for those who wanted to enroll in vocational training courses.
The goal of the Bnei Menashe program at Yeshivat Ma’alot is to enable them to earn a dignified living and support themselves. The Vocational Scholarship Program, funded entirely by the Yeshiva and its graduates, pays a monthly stipend to one adult in each family while they enroll in a practical training course for one year. During their course, they also attend shiurim in the Yeshiva two times every week.
So far, 30 individuals have qualified to work in electronics and computerized engraving. A second group of 10 students are studying mechanical engineering, social work and computer programming.
Click here to see a moving video about our graduates
Helping Bnei Menashe Yeshiva Students
Among the Bnei Menashe who have made Aliyah over the past 10 years are a number of young men living in Ma’alot, Nahariya, Acco and Tzfat who have chosen to come and learn at Yeshivat Ma’alot as Hesder students prior to their army service. Their families are unable to pay the 1200 NIS monthly stipend to the Yeshiva, so we are asking for donations to help fund these students.
For information about donation opportunities please contact Rabbi Nir Herman at firstname.lastname@example.org